Saturday, March 16, 2002

ESPN Sucks
okay, so I just typed a bunch of words about the hot up-and-coming 3B. By coincidence ESPN is showing an alleged third base prospect on its current front page. Alas for them and for the Yankees, Drew Henson isn't nearly as good as ANY of the five that I touted. I'd say something unkind about inability to hold jock straps, but you'd just assume it was anti-Yankee bias. Which it may partly be. But do trust me, Henson isn't at the level of the other five.

He'll be almost as overrated for however long his baseball career lasts as Joe Crede is underrated over the same time frame.

And for equal-opportunity hot corner bashing, if you're wondering why I didn't bother to mention Shea Hillenbrand, well... my mom taught me if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
Third Base
A ton of baseball players are older than they claim to be. Many of them got busted this off-season thanks to, of all things, the heightened post-attack security measures as they related to visa paperwork. Before that, Braves' SS Rafael Furcal got busted when he was arrested for "underage" drinking even though by his real age he was of age.

Adrian Beltre (3B-LA) is one of the few who's actually a year younger than he claims to be. The Dodgers signed him illegally when he was 15 ("16") but nobody wants to come out and admit this. Wilson Betemit (SS-ATL, likely to move to 3B if Furcal is blocking him) signed at 15 and later got caught; the Braves had to pay a nontrivial amount of money to avoid having him declared a free agent.

Thing about Beltre is, all of a sudden he might not even be in the top ten among up and coming 3B. For a long time in the late 1990s, Chipper Jones was a really smart pick late in the first round of a fantasy baseball draft because of the dropoff between Jones and... and... well, that's the point. Who was the second best 3B? Vinny Castilla a Mile High? Robin Ventura before he got old? Ken Caminiti before he fell off the wagon? Then Scott Rolen was a hot rookie, only he too has been overtaken by this latest wave.

Beltre, Troy Glaus, and Eric Chavez came up together three or four years ago. Right behind them was Corey Koskie (of this group, Koskie is the most underrated), and last year Albert Pujols burst on the scene. Also, Phil Nevin became an All-Star finally putting it all together a decade after being the #1 overall pick. And even a Pirates prospect/suspect finally made good on his promise: Aramis Ramirez.

I'll charitably say Beltre is #9, if you don't count 2002's rookie class. He's above Jeff Cirillo (now that Cirillo's an ex-Rockie) and Mike Lowell (Marlins: look up "league average" in the dictionary) and certainly above what's left of Castilla and Ventura. But now ("don't look now but"...), there are five 3B who could be ROY candidates this year.

In descending order of expected greatness:
Hank Blalock (TEX) came out of seemingly nowhere last year. Well, not quite. ESPN prosect guru John Sickels is usually very conservative in his language about prospects but even before last year Sickels was convinced that Blalock was the second coming of George Brett. As a 20-year-old, Blalock was called up to Double-A Tulsa last year and hit for the cycle twice in three days. He also led the Arizona Fall League in slugging. In two or three years, there's an outside chance that Glaus, Pujols, and Blalock will be talked about the way A-Rod, Nomar, and Jeter were in the late 1990s.

Sean Burroughs (SD) certainly has the pedigree. You may remember him from the Little League World Series ten years or so ago. His dad was a big-league outfielder and also coached that team. The Padres are moving both Nevin and Klesko to new positions to let Burroughs play 3B. (They also have a ton of 3B prospects, Xavier Nady et al, who will also be learning new positions.) The knock on Burroughs is that he hasn't developed power yet. But with his batting eye, maybe he is Boggs to Blalock's Brett. Ooh, all these B's.

Eric Hinske (TOR) was plucked from the A's organization in the Billy Koch deal. He hits like every other A's corner infield prospect: Ton of walks, above average power. Oakland dealt him because they don't think he'll be as good as Chavez.

Morgan Ensberg (HOU) will have a short window, since he's older than the other guys, but he's a pure hitter who will play in a highly favorable hitter's park. Of this quintet, he's the one you'd pick to have the best 2002 season as opposed to best career.

Joe Crede (CHW) will be underrated his entire career because of the people he's playing with. You'll hear people call him "lunchpail" or "workmanlike." My old colleague Marshall from Howe Sportsdata sat next to him at a Carolina League All-Star banquet a few years ago and told me he's one of the nicest baseball players he's ever met, just very unassuming, polite, down-to-Earth. The obvious comparison is Ventura since Ventura also came up with the Sox, yet it's also really good comparison anyway.
Did I mention the damn draft took FIVE HOURS? Or that the guy I had in mind for Mr. Irrelevant was taken, also in the final round, maybe five picks ahead of me? Think about it: 14 teams, 24 roster spots, of which eight are bench spots anyway, and I still got nipped at the last minute. Of all the odds...
Prioritize these things for me
Clean room
Writing a crapload of NAQT questions
Signing back onto Yahoo! Chat*
Going outside on what appears to be a GORGEOUS spring day

Alas, there seem to be no right answers here.

*- no sooner did I finally resolve my computer problems but then Avynne herself got logged out. (Booted, reboot, who knows?) This happened about an hour before the draft ended. When the draft ended, I signed off Yahoo! Chat, showered, futzed around a bit, spent heaven knows how much time e-mailing and blogging. Ah, the myriad ways a Saturday can be wasted.
Jim Spinarkel and Ian Eagle
(Don't forget the long "I" in Ian. Rhymes with "lion.")

Do these two do ANYTHING other than call NCAA tourney games from the subregional that none of the A-list announers wanted to travel to? No matter: Seeing them is a welcome part of the routine.

Woke up, had a fantasy baseball draft this morning, involving people from SF (just me), Tempe (plurality of the league), Austin, Cleveland, and the United Kingdom. Since Yahoo! Groups was down (Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball didn't have a slot available for the time that everyone in the league was available), our "Plan C" draft venue was the Yahoo! Chat widget, which now allows "conferencing."

Forgot about the time difference, woke up at 9:30 thinking I had half an hour to spare but actually being half an hour late. Luckily I had the #1 overall pick and had made unambiguous my intent to take A-Rod. Got to the chat room just in time for picks 28 & 29 (league of 14 teams). Just when I'd gotten caught up from that confusion, two things happened that caused me completely to lose focus on the draft:

1. Computer problems, I had to keep futzing with Y! Chat and being reinvited to the conference rooms. Missed a bunch of picks, was never fully confident that any player I typed in was actually available.

Pet Peeve: Any time in a draft situation, someone tries to pick a player who was already taken. It's just a little thing, delays the draft by maybe 15 seconds while the offender comes up with a backup pick, and yet it makes my blood boil. There's NO reason to try to pick an unavailable player, if you've been paying attention. Except today's chat room was so flaky, and this is a league where each team gets up to six keepers. The keepers contributed to the confusion. Blah.

2. Avynne. This one's actually a good kind of "problem." :-) Mind, we go two weeks without contact (all my doing, or rather my Y! Chat widget doing me in) but then just pick it up again, which is good in away but also shows just how casual (when it comes down to it) this chat friendship is. But is it the good kind of casual? I hope so.

She wants to travel as a young adult (nominally she's just two years younger than Albert Pujols: I'm certain the actual difference is at least five but I'm willing to believe that all of this comes on the Pujols end; and yes, the Pujols reference is completely gratuitous). What I figure is someday, she'll want to visit California. I'll give her a place to stay, maybe also a traveling companion. (If she brings her (female) friend from Afghanistan, say.) It wouldn't be nearly what certain kinds of chat buddies fantasize about meeting in real life but maybe it would be like old friends who always hug and kiss when they see each other, just because.

I almost never have a friend like this: Paradoxically, the fact that I want something like that is the reason why it tends never to happen. You can't just casually hug and kiss your friends unless you honestly believe it's no more than a casual sign of friendly affection. Not just "honestly believe" but maybe even take for granted.

Anyway, the baseball draft. I got some decent players. Most rotisserie geeks assume that you care far more about their teams than you actually do. Mindful of this trend, I'll avoid blathering about who's on my roster. Maybe a weblink or something.

Friday, March 15, 2002

Dead Number Office
I think I remember (as in, never actually have to look up) more now-useless phone numbers than I do useful numbers. Lessee:

My own current phone
My own current work
The number my family had when we lived in Tulsa
Peter & Ashlie's old number in Boston
My old number on Bay State Road
My parents' current number
The Mondoux household in Rhode Island but not the Harper-Nixon househould in Massachusetts
Mike and Paul and David's because it spells LIT-GRAD (even though none of them study lit)
Two numbers I had at Harvard

The Harvard ones break the tie. The useless numbers have it.
Got mine today. My plans for the evening are set.

Corwyn called me tonight, only I can't find his number. It's completely random which numbers I do(n't) remember. The only ones you can really count on are my parents' and my own (but I forget my own sometimes). The moral: If you ever call me and have to leave a message, give your number even if you assume I know it. You'd be surprised which numbers I still have to look up, though at least they're easy to find on my Yahoo! account. Now I even have them flagged.

Get an address book? Now why would I ever do that? Heaven forbid a Personal Digital Assistant.
Why Code Needs To Compile Faster
(actually the compile time is fine, it's just restarting my local weblogic instance, but that's more detail than you really care about)

Jump The Shark is an excellent concept, but actually reading what people think turns out to be both really boring and really annoying. It's even worse than the idiots who call radio talk shows.
Badgers?! We don't need no stinkin' Badgers!"
I watched the 1997 BU-Tulsa game from the comfort of Bay State Road. My allegiances were divided at best, sorry.

As much press as Gonzaga gets, I suspect that Tulsa is at or near the lead in cumulative NCAA tournament upsets over the last decade or so. Go by upset points (if you beat a higher seed, the difference in seeds) for convenience.

In 1994, Tulsa not only upset UCLA (killed UCLA: the 112-102 final score doesn't reflect that the margin exceeded 30 somewhere around halftime) but also Oklahoma State. Boy, there's a game that didn't get much coverage outside the local markets. (As Tulsa was beating Oklahoma State, BC was shocking #1 seed North Carolina.)

In 1995, Tulsa and OSU were in the same bracket again, sharing the East with UMass among others. Tulsa could not beat the Minutemen but OSU did.

Steve Robinson made Tulsa overachieve, and got to Florida State for his efforts. Tubby Smith did the same, and got to Kentucky. (Hey, TU-Kentucky Saturday. Reunion of sorts.) And last year (two years ago?) Bill Selph made TU a stepping stone to Illinois. Wonder why so many coaches have overachieved there, going back to Nolan Richardson.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Not to change the subject, but did you hear about Rosie O'Donnell?
The fight for mainstream acceptance of gays is officially over and (I can only hope) everybody wins. Except dour right-wingers, but if even I eventually saw the light, who actually is still left who didn't?

Also, I spoke more or less that title sentence in the just-completed phone conversation with my mom. I wonder if Mom will wonder why I saw fit to mention this. Maybe I'm just asking for trouble but it's just something my parents should think about, just because. And no, this has nothing to do with me, so I guess it's not my place. Still...

After awhile I get sick of making pointedly gender-neutral references only to see the point of those references seem to go over people's heads.

Sometimes in code geekery, a newly occurring bug will correlate with some change to the system that couldn't possibly have been the cause of the new bug, and yet the correlation is unmistakable and other plausible causes seem to have been ruled out. Even if the seemingly unrelated change is so unlikely to be the cause that you figure it's not even worth considering, ignoring the big white elephant is stupid. Maybe it's not THE cause but it certainly could have played a part.

I'm so fired up by Rosie's sudden show of courage that I really want to come out of the closet myself, right here and right now, except for one problem that's become more and more obvious: If I did "come out," I'd be lying. And nobody wants that. If I were gay, this moment is PRECISELY when I'd come out. I couldn't avoid it. Sort of like how I've come to realize exactly who in California I'd be attracted to if I were gay, who I would have asked out (he seems to be straight anyway). The funny thing is that the person (his identity doesn't matter) utterly fails to even remotely resemble either the physical specs of my dream woman or whatever the male analogue to them would be. Well, that's not entirely true: His hair is amazing. But that's neither here nor there and this whole digression is vaguely unsettling. Nonetheless, I think if I were gay I'd have long since asked him out. :-)
Do not do these things
Have a four-hour, company-wide meeting the day before code freeze. Developers don't like it when you do this.

Schedule your four-hour, company-wide meeting to coincide with March Madness NCAA Basketball. Sports fans don't like it when you do this. In a typical work year there are 260 days on which you could schedule a company-wide meeting, 258 of which DON'T HAVE THIS PROBLEM.

Devote the bulk of your company-wide meeting to brainstorms over "positioning" and "messaging" -- for a company that already has a product ("service" if you prefer), has been in the process of improving on it, and is about to hit a code freeze for one such iteration of improvements.

(Discussions of "positioning" and "messaging" generally make the most sense before you decide what you want to build, rather than after fate has given you an existing hand and market forces have told you far more than your brainstorm session ever will.)

Get into semantic issues about "short-term" versus "long-term" issues. The short term has been decided for us. If all we cared about was the short term, we'd have far better things to do than sit in a four-hour, company-wide meeting the day before code freeze. Long-term is well worth discussing, with the proviso that what we've already done will tell us a lot about what would and wouldn't work, also with the proviso that knowing what we want to do in the long run is a good way to avoid shooting ourselves in the foot in the short run.

Don't be afraid to let your product be what you want it to be, as opposed to defining it into some niche into which it may or may not fit and that may or may not be as trendy six months from now as it is now.

Do these things instead
Listen to your salespeople. They know what they're doing. In selling your product, they know what works and does not.

Listen to your engineers. They know what can be built and what can't, what has been built and what hasn't. It's generally a good idea to sell what has been built rather than what hasn't been built, to focus on what your product can do rather than what it can't do, what it already does as opposed to... well, I suppose focusing on what it could do soon may be useful, if you're realistic about what "soon" means.

Had to vent. Don't take this personally. Don't assuming I'm necessarily talking about any company I work for or for that matter any company with proprietary information to protect.
Matt #1
Every year in the Coen pool I have two entries. One basically writes itself and is based entirely on seeding and trolling for upset points. The other always involves Oklahoma State and/or Tulsa and/or Oklahoma going absurdly far. (Or Iowa State, since becoming close to ISU alumni.)

I'm convinced that Matt #1 should win the pool every two or three years, if I don't futz with it. All it takes is the total number of upsets to pass a certain threshold. Most years it won't, but the majority is slim. Matt #1 hasn't done quite as well as I'd hoped, but at least one it was because I had sentimental reasons for going against my own system. Hence the different entries...

Most years Matt #2 should crash and burn, though one of of these years Tulsa or OSU will pull a 1995 on us and hey look... or not.

Both of my entries are very happy about Tulsa over Marquette.
Bruce Howard & J.V. Haney
Howard has called Tulsa Drillers games for years if not decades. Ditto for Haney and Tulsa high school sports. Good to hear familiar voices, especially so long as TU is ahead.
But I have bigger fish to fry, involving my finally actually bothering to keep track of what's going on in my family and not be so distant.

Small world...
Sportswriter Skip Bayless is supposedly working in San Jose these days. When I was growing up, for a long time he was based out of Oklahoma City. Then when my parents moved to Chicago, there he was at the Tribune. He was at the Trib when he wrote this column. Coincidentally I found both the column and this chat when searching Google to be sure I had Dirato's name right.

It's a brutally interesting column, about life's tough calls and the way good deeds never go unpunished. A lot of people missed the point when it first ran. I might have been one of those people.
Bill Teegins
Tom Dirato is doing the pregame solo. I can't remember who OSU's play-by-play guy is these days. Suddenly occurred to me that Teegins isn't around anymore, may he rest in peace. Funny how easy it is to forget some tragedies after other, bigger ones come along.
Sutton has a great voice for radio. Despite the higher seed, Oklahoma State is (for gaming purposes) officially an underdog, so the pre-game tells me. Damn those Vegas wiseacres.
Get your streaming audio right here. Yahoo! is maddeningly hard to navigate compared to how things always used to be. Going to led me to a dead end.
San Francisco Radio
Drove to work earlier than usual this morning. Flipping through several stations of morning DJs.

Radio Alice has a new guy on the morning team. It's still Sarah & Vinny but now also this funny flaming queeny guy. (Sarah & Vinny & Fruitcake?) Can't tell from the bios who the gay guy is (maybe Schutte?) but I do know that they had him reading sports and he kept going on about just how hot Derek Jeter supposedly is.

On other stations... insta-poll! Which "World Class Rock" artist would you most want to hold political office. Of the choices they give, the only one I can vote for in good conscience is Nugent.
Why Are All These Humor Sites Running Personal Ads?
First The Onion, now Modern Humorist. It's almost enough to make me start doing that sort of thing again.

No, I think I'm holding out for Baseball Prospectus personals. Or even HQ. Depends on whether I want a true stathead or just a rotisserie geek.

(After the Vegas trip I sent an e-mail to Ron Shandler joking about the difference between a $125 exotic dancer and a $40 Sammy Sosa. I figure Sammy's more handsome but the dancer might help with batting average and steals. His response was something about how you should try anything once, since that's how the LIMA Plan and the team full of 30-something southpaws came about.)
Passport Trivia
The shirt I'm wearing in my passport photo (issued 19 APR 96) shows the name of what baseball team?
(I think the shirt in question actually has TWO teams on it, but only the top name is shown in the photo.)

Hmm. On 19 APR 96 I got my passport reissued. I have no memory of the date being especially meaningful. Along similar lines, on 11 SEP 02 I plan to see a Giants-Dodgers matinee game. A moment of silence would be exactly the right thing to do. Maybe "Amazing Grace" also, but not much more than that for fear of getting maudlin.

The real reason I didn't watch the CBS documentary was I was en route from Las Vegas. Aside from that, secondary reasons would have involved my not necessarily being ready to watch it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Multicultural Geeks
Ximena Cordovez became known as Carmen when she came to the U.S. Maybe earlier -- grew up in Ecuador, studied in Brazil, trilingual at a minimum (Spanish, Portuguese, English). She does DBA stuff. Fun, cheerful person. I love the way she spells the word "finantial" [sic] and pronounces the phrase "for example."

Ian McRae is a French-speaking Canadian with Scottish ancestry. The more they work together, the more similar his and Carmen's accents become.

Rama has a very long last name. I really shouldn't say this but he has the accent and cadence of Apu. Most people I know from India actually don't, yet Rama does. It's unclear to what extent he's adjusted to the U.S. Since his hiring, his duties have been gradually diminished, as originally he was in way over his head.

Luke Cassidy-Dorian brought his boyfriend to the Vectiv Christmas party. They were a cute couple. As mentioned previously, this party had a lot of boyfriends and wifes but seemingly no girlfriends or husbands. I guess the women and gay man in this company are younger, on average, than the straight men.

Seiken Nakama would be better described as Californian than Japanese. Well obviously, since I think he's lived here almost his whole life. He heads up QA; if "Malicious User" isn't his job title then it ought to be.

Rob Helmer can't check any interesting boxes on census forms but he's a sys-admin and he has a long ponytail so hey.

We all report to Fel Bautista. Fel may be of South American ancestry but it's not entirely clear. (Not as in secretive or mysterious but just that he told me once and I completely forgot.) He's like those CNN anchors who look multicultural but have unclear ethnicity (well, aside from the Latin origins of "Bautista"). More notably, Fel is at least 40 but looks to me like he's my age. Fel also drives a Beemer, which to me diminishes his engineering cred. Biz-dev people drive Beemers, people like Will Au-Yeung. (Just kidding.)

Will was Silicon Age's only employee NOT to be explicitly a geek: He was biz-dev manager. Now he's in Hong Kong, just visiting his extended family.

Amidst all this, I'm a WASP. Maybe a bit of a greaser though. rhelmer's hairstyle makes him look like a Unix sys-admin; mine makes me look like a backwoods drifter.
Late-Afternoon Snack of Champions
I've got Pringles ("Spicy Cajun" flavor") on my desk, plus a Diet Dr. Pepper bottle, not to mention the orange-flavored sugar candies that I just consumed and threw away. Some gumballs remain in the plastic bag but only because that kind of candy is a better value at 2/$1.00 than whatever one of it retails for.

Since my junk food run, not one but two sales/marketing guys have walked past my desk on their way out the door. As PR goes, my junk food run may be useful, in that it gives me massive "real code geek" cred. That and the glasses and the gut, it's all a vicious cycle.

Now and then last summer Vectiv would send out e-mails that, because important potential clients would be in the office (Starbucks is the one I remember: I assume this is long since past embargo, since it looks like Starbucks ended up taking a pass on us months ago), we should clean off our desks. I categorically disagree with this:

If I were looking to do business with a software provider (actually a web-based app provider), I'd want the developers to look exactly like me (the real-life me, not the hypothetical business-doing me). I'd want their desks to look exactly like this one does. The junk food would make me mentally raise my esteem a notch or two.

To keep things clear, I am NOT a sys-admin geek. I don't have a server rack nor would I ever want one. If I wanted Tivo, I'd buy Tivo rather than attempting to engineer my own equivalent of it (as Rob Helmer, the sys-admin here, has apparently been working on -- Rob also earns massive cred to me for leading an open source project that will result in a web interface for CVS; if you understand that last part well enough to appreciate it, tell me about it. I always like hearing from geeks).

Jake likes the spicy cajun flavoring. Jake is the product team guy who had been laid off in October but brought back. I guess now that team is split up into "implementation" (the ones who actually visit the customer and work with them to get on-line -- everyone but Jake, I think) and engineering proper (with Jake basically in charge of the defect manager).

I should have known Jake went to Dartmouth. Kimberly too. They both look like Dartmouth people. Ever notice that Dartmouth people all look alike? It's something about the particular shade of blonde in their hair. Call it snow-blonde to distinguish it from sun-blonde or corn-blonde or strawberry-blonde or whatever other shades there are.

(This Dartmouth connection came up Thursday right before the off-site. Come to think of it, the timing of going to Las Vegas resulted in both the off-site and the BP pizza feed getting omitted from things here. Oh well.)

In any case, if Vectiv had an org chart then I think Jake would count as a dotted-line boss for me. People hate the idea of a dotted-line boss but sometimes a person has far more impact on your workload and works far closer with you than the one you formally report to. I interact so little with Fel, relative to Jake, that if it were about seniority then why stop at Fel? Why not go straight to the VP of product (who Fel reports to, whose office is closer to me than Fel's anyway)?

Jake is the one who assigns me work, where by "assign" I mean "tells me what needs to be fixed." I tell him how much time & effort different fixes would take, then for the most part he leaves me to figure out how to make it so. Well, me and Ian, because when it comes down to it the application code and the database need each other. Well, I guess the dependency runs more in one direction: A database with no application code would still have perfectly useful data. Still, part of my job (at least the way I frame it, the set of things that give me pride in my work) is to minimize the degree to which Ian's work life is hell.
The death of Mike Darr still makes me a little verklempt. But if anyone would mourn the passing of an underrated fourth outfielder, it'd be me.

Darr had an outside chance of being asked to fill Tony Gwynn's shoes, never an easy thing to make a talented but ultimately replacement-level player do. (Ask Mike Greenwell, who couldn't even fill Jim Rice's.) Instead, the Padres have moved Ryan Klesko to that spot. He's already enough of a star, and enough of a community figure, that this will be undaunting.

ESPN spins this as "hotshot Sean Burroughs causes Padres to move two All-Stars." This is borderline crap, since Phil Nevin was a little defensively challenged at third base and Klesko himself is defensively challenged the moment he crosses the foul line. Not to diss Klesko, who I truthfully described at a BP pizza feed as my favorite player. He's a very large man and deceptively fast (note the recent SB totals). In that regard he's a lot like most of the cars and vans I've driven in my life.

Come to think of it, the Klesko position shift results in slight playing-time losses for Mark Kotsay, Bubba Trammel, and Ray Lankford. Maybe Kotsay wasn't such a steal in the RMO after all?
So long, Buzzy's


The Talk Radio Heavy 100
Listing and mugshots and boilerplate text here. Don't ask why I care about this stuff but I do.

Whole bunch of right-leaning folk on this list (multiple onetime guest hosts for Rush...), most interestingly the black conservatives. Larry Elder, Ken Hamblin... there are others I'm not thinking of who didn't make the "100" list. If you're into cable TV, you've probably seen Alan Keyes. Think of the radio analogue.

Local-angle people I know about...
Howie Carr is syndicated?!? WHY? He's great if you want to hear about Whitey Bulger or make fun of Jane Swift but who outside Beacon Hill would give a rat's ass?

Roe and Garry are funny. My mom is hooked on them. Neither Don nor Roma made the list (the married-couple morning team: he's hard-core right, she tries to pose as left to be his foil but she's not very convincing, nor even all that liberal anyway, more of a squishy middle). Spike O Dell presumably does WGN mornings now. The longtime WGN morning host actually died in a plane crash the afternoon (February 2000) that my mom and I departed from Chicago on our trip. Roe and Garry were giving breaking news, at a point when people knew it was "Uncle Dicks" plane but not sure if he was on it. Signal was fading. We flipped from R&G to Spike, who almost made it through his show without losing composure on the air. Sad sad day.

(WGN radio is what you'd expect it to be based on WGN TV: Relentlessly cheerful hosts, catering to a 55+ demographic and trying to steer clear of anything nasty or controversial.)

None of the San Francisco names are even remotely familiar to me; no reason for them to be. Rumor has it Pete Wilson hosts a show. I don't mind avoiding it.

Ah, the glory days of pre-Limbaugh talk radio: Bruce Williams and Dr. Dean Edell both still make the list.

On the other end of the spectrum, stock in Opie & Anthony still rising.

Right-wingers on sports, again.

I always thought there was something not quite right about Dean Smith. Sure he's a fine person but the article rings true to me. My favorite moment in A March To Madness is when Coach K tells Dean on the sideline, "you know, you're full of shit."

Some people just are. Maybe I am too.
Stuff about comics
Every now & then a real Family Circus cartoon actually warms my heart. This almost feels like TMI, or a weird sort of anti-TMI, since so many of Bil Keane's other creations seem so richly to deserve the mockery they get. But once in awhile...

Actually, it's happened exactly twice. The one I linked to there and the one where Dolly says, "Yesterday was the past and tomorrow is the future but today is a gift, that's why we call it the present." That one was seven years ago and yet I still remember it.

The one thing worth mocking about the flag cartoon is that it feels a few months behind to me. Weren't the flags pretty universal by October? It's so out of date that it's already a month behind the Onion article about the man wondering when it's safe to remove his flag. (No link: Onion search widget is down.)

In other comic news, That's Jake has been running some vicious attacks on other comic strips. Parody is funny when it's accurate. For the most part he's been right on.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

And because I'm an armchair media analyst...

What My High School Classmates Will See on KOTV
OSU vs. Kent State
Marquette vs. Tulsa
Kansas vs. Holy Cross
ehh... national coverage. say Duke and then spin the dial

Oklahoma vs. Ill-Chicago
ehh... maybe UConn-Hampton
Texas Tech vs. Southern Illinois
Texas vs. BC

What My Mom Will See on CBS2
Notre Dame-Charlotte

NC State-Michigan State
Wisconsin-St. John's
ehh... Maryland and then spin the dial

What the Townies Will See on WBZ
Ohio State-Davidson
ooh, this is tough! Gonzaga must be the showcase game, but with Boston's Catholic population... pick 'em
Duke until the lead's at least 30, then the close game du jour

Pitt-Central Conn

Friday was much easier than Thursday

What my unemployed roommates would see on KPIX
Wake Forest-Pepperdine
Stanford-W Kentucky

NC State-Michigan State
Texas Tech-S. Illinois
UCLA-Ole Miss

Of course, between satellite packages and Internet streaming, all bets are off for the SERIOUS (read: needs a life) fan...
Fun With RealAudio
From my headphones (dude, I don't even have a cuble, I have an open-air desk and I like it), with control at my fingertips (broadcast feeds permitting...):

All times Pacific

Thursday, 9:20 a.m.: Oklahoma State vs. Kent State. The childhood favoritsm begins. Seems like only yesterday, though it must have been years ago by now, that OSU-Syracuse was the first Thursday game. I remember Sean McDonough trying to hide his feelings for his alma mater. Also, OSU had that point guard who could make the Best Passes Ever but couldn't shoot to save his life. Damn, what was his name?

For some reason the Pokes always get that early Thursday game. And this year, yet again, by a margin of five minutes, they kick things off. It's because Eddie Sutton is so photogenic, right?

Also, if something goes bad with OSU, then Kentucky-Valpo is sure to entertain. Homer Drew vs. Tubby Smith, a true chess match.

Thursday, 11:55 a.m.: Marquette vs. Tulsa. Not exactly a marquis matchup but it's always nice to catch up with the Golden Hurricane. Now that Bill Selph is gone, I wonder if they still play up-tempo. I wonder who the current coach is and where he'll end up after the next Cinderella tourney run.

Seriously, Tulsa is the all-time coaching stepping stone. Especially for the black guys. Not Selph, of course, but Nolan and Tubby and Steve Robinson and even one more that I'm forgetting.

Thursday, 2:12 p.m.: Oregon vs. Montana. Only game in town.

Thursday, 4:40 p.m.: Gonzaga vs. Wyoming. Keeping up the West Coast theme. Will we ever get tired of the Zags bandwagon? I suspect that the selection committee's continued disrespect for that team is the one thing that keeps it from jumping the shark.

Thursday Evening... Blah. Some decent storylines, no really compelling game. Maybe Arizona will be upset again. Duke won't be. Indiana-Utah would be much better if it were Bobby Knight versus Majerus instead of that guy whose name I'm forgetting. There's a bit of a Stanford bandwagon in these parts. Stanford-Duke would be great on Saturday as a battle of the eggheads, except that since Stanford is a #8 seed they're officially slight underdogs. :-)

Friday, 9:30 a.m.: Oklahoma vs. Illinois-Chicago. Although, home state aside, there's something a little compelling about Herb Sendek's Wolf Pack bunch. I'm still not adjusting to the idea that Michigan State is listed as an underdog. That just seems wrong.

Friday, 11:55 a.m.: Berkeley vs. Penn. Speaking of eggheads. Or safety schools. Your choice how pretentiously smart you want to be or pose.

Friday, 4:40 p.m.: Cincy vs. BU. Have a little faith. Why not?

Friday Evening... Double-blah! This is an awful card. Maybe it'll induce me to have a social life. I mean, where the hell's the "late night" (for East Coasters) drama?! Maryland will annihilate Siena. Murray State could pull an upset special but it seems like a... oh what the hell, I'm feeling it. Murray State it is. Texas-BC is doable, I guess. UCLA-Ole Miss is a nice culture clash; if I knew any Angelenos I'd openly and obnoxiously root for the hick boys.
But my favorite thing about Thursday March Madness... the 5:12 EST (2:12 PST) game that most of the country doesn't get to see. It's one of the little things that makes me feel special about the west coast. See, unlike Friday, Thursday has FIVE distinct time slots for first-round games. Usually the "forgotten" game features a West Regional 2-15 game. Or if not the West bracket proper, at least a good Pac 10 team. Almost always Stanford, though this year it's Oregon.

I just get a big kick out of this game and its time slot. I'll make a special point of listening to it.

Last year Vectiv had some sort of Open House on the Thursday night of first-round games. Kubi invited me over afterwards to watch OSU-USC and/or Iowa State-Hampton (whichever of either/both CBS would deign to show us). We both were disappointed. So it goes.
Madness Takes Its Toll
At some point when I got back from the weekend I noticed that Selection Sunday had come and gone. This has been a weird year for me and college basketball, specifically that I've followed absolutely none of it. Saw Duke lose to FSU once. Noticed once that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were both highly ranked. Saw parts of the Ohio State - Illinois tournament game Saturday. That's about it.

Now everyone in the office is talking about bracket pools. I'm surprisingly unenthused by the gaming aspect of March Madness. If you're in a pool, chances are that by and large, picking upsets is either so lucrative or so pointless that you'd be better off going big (see upset points, Le Piscine Coen) or going none (see than trying to cherry-pick your upsets. Just being a probability theory sourpuss here.

This is especially true in a small pool. In a large pool you may feel as though you have no choice but to get the games darn near exactly right. The reason you feel this way is because IT'S TRUE. This is why pools are invariably won by the hot chick who knows nothing about basketball but happened to make the right random guesses. It's related to why the statistically "best" hand in a game of Texas Hold Em is almost never the hand that would win the pot if everybody actually stayed in through the flop, turn, & river. Fortunately, there's no good way for self-appointed hoops experts to raise the bidding and price the hot chicks out of the pool.

(Neither the first or last inkling that Chad Kubicek is an odd bird: I still distinctly remember the 2000 tourney, which we followed from the office space of the soon-to-be-bankrupt BeautyScene folks. This was the year that in the first round there were ALMOST NO UPSETS. Kubi kept crowing about what a great job the selection committee had done. Gotta love him.)

But to hell with the betting. What interests me about this is that there are so many games at once, but also so many distinct time slots. You can get wall-to-wall coverage. I love the first two rounds, then after that I kind of lose interest.

Teams that got screwed by home court:
Berkeley has to play Penn at Pitt, then Pitt at Pitt. Must supress urge to make snide comment about safety schools here, since this is all relative.

SDSU has to play Illinois at Chicago. BC has to play Texas in Dallas. Siena has to play Maryland at MCI Center. Illinois-Chicago facing Oklahoma in Dallas sort of counts, though it's not nearly as bad as the time OSU and TU were both sent to the subregional in Oklahoma City. (You may remember Tulsa 112, UCLA 102.)

Speaking of Tulsa, Ian the Quebecois DBA (who sits next to me and talks to his wife in French: Ian is a neat guy) actually picked the Golden Hurricane to make the Final 4 from having been a 12 seed. He was roundly mocked for this, although not by me.

Nobody has mocked me -- yet --for taking a certain #16 seed over #1 Cincinnati in the office pool. (Which is identical to my entry but NOT to either of my Coen entries.)
Songs Stuck In Head
Rocket Queen today, for no apparent reason. I haven't even heard that song in what seems like years. Maybe about time to add Appetite to the car radio tape deck rotation?

I kept notes over the weekend of what songs got stuck in my head during chess games.
In no particular order:
Phil Collins, "Against All Odds"
Nickelback, "How You Remind Me"
Sheryl Crowe, "Soak Up the Sun"
Theme from Wall Street Week
Linkin Park, "In The End"
Veruca Salt, "Sound of the Bell"
Ozzy, "I Don't Know"
No Doubt, "Hey Baby" (NOTE: THIS SONG IS EVIL. If it gets stuck in your head, you're toast)
Madonna, "Material Girl"
Ozzy, "Gets Me Through"
Jimmy Buffett, "Come Monday"
Nellie Furtado, "I'm Like A Bird"
AC/DC, "Thunderstruck"

...and probably more that I've forgotten. Of all of the, "Soak Up The Sun" was the most surprising entry, even recurring in multiple rounds.
Today's Lesson in Object Oriented Programming
Suppose you have a method with a lot of stuff going on but one thing in that method has to be handled differently in a subclass.

DON'T copy and paste the method from the parent class to the subclass just to change the one little thing. Break out the thing you want to change, and put THAT somewhere useful. Less clutter that way. Less redundancy. You know who you are. Eh, except that the offender in this case almost certainly doesn't read this. I'd insert some Silicon Age alumni pride but that'd be gratuitous.
House of Bug
People on my list of observent folk:

  • The woman who took my driver's license at the Caesar's cashier's desk Saturday evening

  • Joon

  • my mom (although really she'd have no excuse)

This isn't a make-or-break thing. I'm not expecting people to have photographic memories, and come to think of it I'm more than fine with keeping things quiet. Then again, Joon was really nice to me tonight, basically taking the initiative to invite me and other of our friends to get together and play bughouse.

People who I actually bothered to say something to:

There followed a conversation about 27-year-old southpaws: Hitters on the verge of breakout seasons, pitchers still learning how to pitch. (Lefty pitchers bloom late.)

Monday, March 11, 2002

Skip this entry and keep reading about Tenerife (or writing about it, as appropriate).

The Buffets
To make up for finding creative ways to convince you to spend money, Las Vegas is a nice town for freebies. Most notably free parking -- had I remembered this, obviously I'd have gotten a rental car at the airport instead of from the Strip. Wager enough and your comps start to build up. Food is... well, not free, but cheap and in generous portions. Sort of like a college dining hall only not crappy.

Friday I somehow managed not to eat lunch (had a very heavy breakfast burrito at OAK), but woke up from a much-needed afternoon nap just in time to hit the Caesar's buffet the night of the lobster special. Nothing like eating an entire lobster, especially if the chef cuts it in just the right places. Precede it with an above-average salad-bar salad. Add to that some good shrimp, some shells & rice, a dollop of mashed potatoes. Top it all off with a big slice of crack and a banana.

Saturday afternoon (after "breakfast" of a Diet Coke as Round 3 began) I hit the Riviera buffet. Not bad; they had stations from five "world cuisines," of which I stuck to Italy and came out with some good lasagna, shrimp scampi (the scampi sauce was on the side, so I avoided it), plus some of the finest meats and cheeses. Pumpkin pie for desert.

Was this really my only Saturday meal? Granted, Game 4 ran really long but still... hey, I did drink a lot of water during the round. And I think I tried and failed to find something open within Caesar's around midnight. Briefly considered ordering room service, fell asleep instead.

Sunday morning had an overpriced danish and beverage can from the refreshment stand by the ballroom. After Round 5 and the rental car return, ate a late lunch at some place called Kati's that had a variety of food. The San Diegans with whom I ate alleged (incorrectly) that Kati's was overpriced; San Francisco has anti-spoiled me on this point. Got a pretty good Philly cheesesteak sandwich that came with mashed potatos. Listened to a discussion of warez that turned out to be stuff I didn't want to know. (One of my tablemates used to run a site called before taking it down.) Of the other two at the table, one was my Round 5 opponent -- he'd invited me to eat with them -- and the other, ironically, turned out to be my Round 6 opponent. Also known as the Hindu guy who ordered a bacon cheeseburger, much to his friends' amusement and mockery.

Back at the airport, suddenly starving (on one meal a day, this figures), would kill for a Pizza Hut personal box. Alas, they were out; had to make due with chicken tenders.
You bet your balls it's...
One more thing: The live entertainment at Riviera Sunday was either Neil Diamond or a convincing tribute band.

Speaking of Saturday Night Live characters and also dead-on impressions, caught about five minutes of this weekend's show, all of it Weekend Update, featuring "Drunk Girl."
Caught the end of a Neil Young "yesterday and today" twofer just now, courtesy of the radio alarm. You can guess what the "today" song was. Nothing quite like being reminded what today is when one wakes up. If I'm alive by the end of the day and my head hits the pillow 14 hours or so from now, I'll be happy enough.
Loss, Draw, Loss, Win, Draw, Loss
I'll post my scoresheets when I get around to it. Basically, all six of my opponents were rated higher than me but I still played like crap and probably lost some tiny number of rating points. In both of my draws, I blew dead-won positions; converting them both would have given me a .500 tournament. (That's not strictly true, since the resulting higher tournament score would give me consistently slightly better opponents. But I lost Round 6 anyway. Maybe converting the Round 2 win would have resulted in fewer than 1.5 points for my Rounds 4-5?)

Would you rather get a draw after blowing a win or get a draw after escaping a loss? The former is a better sign for how good you are but the latter is much nicer psychologically.
I'm back. A little poorer, a lot more tired. Stories to come, I suppose. I want to hear about Tenerife first, and I'm sure you do too.

Little snippets to tide you over:
Played video poker at the airport before my return flight, getting it all out of my system. On $20 worth of play at a 25-cent machine, I recouped $18.25. Loss of $1.75 seems about right. This is why you can't come out ahead.

(Except that I did put $100 -- 400 credits -- into a video poker machine at Riviera and quit-while-I-was-ahead once I hit 450 credits ($112.50).)

Also at the airport before my return flight, saw a Trung Canidate jersey. Not Marshall Faulk but Trung Canidate. Sticking with airports, I had boarding card 61 for my Friday flight. You know how some buildings lack a 13th floor? For flights to Las Vegas, Southwest should remove cards 31, 61, and 91 from the stack. You get one of those numbers, it's a sign you probably shouldn't be wagering much.

Caesar's Palace is more than a half-hour walk from the Riviera. It's unclear how or why I chose this place. Riviera (site of the chess) was sold out one of the nights I needed to stay, so I asked the lady on the phone which hotels were close-by. Apparently I misheard "Circus Circus" as "Caesar's Palace." Or just Caesar's if you're local. Once was enough for that walk; obviously I ended up with a rental car. Shitty little green Honda Civic. I say "shitty" but it turned out pretty nice, dents and windshield chip and all. Handled well, turning radius especially. It's a death-trap, especially the way I drive, but I found myself missing a lot of the Civic's litheness when I lumbered back from the Oakland airport in the good old Intrepid.

The Honda also had one of those remote key thingys, such that when you pushed the button the tail lights would flash. Helpful for finding your car in a crowded lot. I had trouble finding the Intrepid at Oakland tonight.

The Forum Shops, adjacent to Caesar's, are the root of all evil. At the very end of my half-hour walk, at the very end of my mounting disappointment in just how inconvenient a hotel choice I'd made, I tried to get to the Caesar's lobby and/or casino but found myself stuck in the damn mallspace. Memories suddenly came to me: It turns out the Forum shops are precisely where my previous Vegas trip started to go bad. Can't put my finger on it, but there's something I just loathe about the Forum Shops, far above and beyond any negative feeling I've ever had towards retail outlets elsewhere.

Also, Caesar's is a bait-and-switch: The place is famous to sports fans for its sports book, yet as far as I could tell this was nothing special. Instead there's all the damn shopping. Admittedly it's a good place for high rollers, but I'm both insufficiently rich and insufficiently social to qualify here. Caesar's is really a chick place, or maybe a couple's place. Big bed around which one could draw curtains (I never did). Mirror on the ceiling -- amusingly, it fogged over when I took hot showers. Big round bathtub (with shower head too) in one corner of the bed/living area, with both the sink area and the toilet distinct from it. All this is to say, Caesar's is swank. Seemed like a waste for me to be sleeping there alone, but sleep alone is what I did.

Overheard in the Caesar's casino as I wandered through it before check-in: Nickelback, "How You Remind Me." That song is officially everywhere. Still beats the Muzak version of "Orinoco Flow" that I heard in the Oakland airport Friday.

Some cuties at the chess tournament, one of whom was a dead ringer for Britney Spears. Look at this picture. The one on the right now looks like Britney and the one on the left is also quite the gorgeous redhead. They dressed especially stylishly, with their denim miniskirts and thigh-high boots and/or platform sandals.

Few if any kids in my section (Reserve). I suppose most of them were in the Booster, with the bigshot up-and-coming coached ones in the Open. Aside from the cuties, it was a middle-aged man and old fart section.

Since the Booster was Under 1600 and the Reserve was Under 2000, nominally my section had entirely "A" (1800-1999) and "B" (1600-1799) players. My best-ever rating was 1894; the current 1660 is quite a comedown from that. There's actually a decent conversion scale from chess skills to baseball levels. Think of Master and above as the major leagues, with Expert as Triple-A (and some Quadruple-A players whose ratings keep going up and down around 2200). Then Class A in chess is baseball's Double-A. Chess's B class matches up with "fast A" leagues (California, Carolina), maybe C is Midwest/Sally type single-A, and so on.

What makes this analogy work is that in baseball there's a big jump from high A to double-A. They say this is a big hurdle for prospects to clear. In chess, there turns out to be a big transition from B players to A players, where the difference is positional play. You can become a decent B player with great tactics alone, but it takes strategy and positional play to get you through to A range.

In addition to chess, the Riviera had some sort of Au Pair convention and also some sort of dentistry convention. Isn't there some worn-out cliche about dentists at conventions in places like Las Vegas?

The most annoying TV personality ever is, hands down, the cheesy smarmy guy who's on a dozen different channels at Caesar's, always as a tool to explain how the different games work. Words can't describe how annoying this guy is, or how bad the script is that he has to work with.

Speaking of TV, I got to do the express checkout thing via the TV set in my room and the punch of a few buttons on my remote control. A few minor glitches: I was charged for eleven local phone calls at $1.00 each. I probably should have complained about this, since I personally only made one call.

Okay, that was a lot of "little snippets." Maybe there's nothing left to tell, which will spare you from pointless narrative.